But first some background.
Back in the day, which for our purposes is 1963, The Fugitive generated some measure of controversy for proposing the idea that an innocent man could be tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, and that after his escape the police would continue to pursue him. The thought was that such a storyline, in which the escapee (Richard Kimball) is the “good guy” and the lawful authorities the “bad guys” might play into the hands of the radical elements promoting an idea of American judicial injustice.*
*For an explanation of the cultural dynamics in effect during the Cold War, see here and here.
It wasn’t just The Fugitive that triggered the Evil Eye from some; movies from Dr. Strangelove to M*A*S*H were decried by critics from mainstream publications* as being anti-American, anti-military, anti-religion – in short, they violated the common cultural understanding of right and wrong when it came to America’s relationship with its civic, religious and governmental institutions.
*Mainstream, as in The New York Times and the Washington Post. Yeah, I know.
Today, of course, such a sentiment would be laughable. Far from being the “good guys,” the authorities (government, the police, religious institutions, etc.) are now assumed by a majority of people as hopelessly corrupt, stupid, evil, or a combination of all three. At any given time, roughly half the American public probably things the current political administration is illegitimate. Conspiracy theories, all pointing back to at least one branch of the Federal government, abound.
So here’s the million-dollar idea.
Within the next four years, someone should develop an idea for a television series based on the premise of a group working to overthrow the government of the United States – with the understanding that these modern-day rebels are the good guys.
Let me repeat – a group of individuals are trying to stage a coup d'etat against our government, and we – as Americans – are supposed to root for them.
This clearly turns tradition on its head. One need look back no further than the 1964 classic Seven Days in May, in which members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (including the Chairman) plotted to stage a military coup and overthrow what they perceived to be a dangerously weak and naïve American president,* to see that the idea of overthrowing the government was considered – well, unacceptable in polite company.
*You only had to look at the casting – Burt Lancaster as the Chairman of the JCS and Kirk Douglas as the colonel standing up to him – to tell which one was the hero and which the villain.
Now I hasten to add, right off the top, that I am NOT advocating the overthrow of the United States Government, either violently or peacefully. I am in favor of neither treason nor sedition, and I do not want either the FBI or the Secret Service knocking at my door in the middle of the night.* But I think the public is ready for a show like this. People aren’t as naïve as they used to be; instead, they’re now hopelessly cynical about everything and everyone. Not all people, but certainly enough to make up an audience large enough to make a TV series a success. There’s so much pent-up anger out there, you’re likely to have half the country on the side of the heroes right off the bat. We have plenty of shows about agents trying to protect us from the enemy – it’s time now for one where the agents aren’t pointed outward, but inward – toward the government itself.
*I would not, however, object to them pouring over the blog looking for evidence. Anything to drive readership and increase numbers, you know.
As to the format of the show, I’ll leave that to you. It could be someone like Jack Bauer, a rogue agent operating undercover for the CIA, having determined that the government has sold out to foreign nations. It could be a group of freedom fighters, ordinary citizens trying to wrest control of the nation from politicians who’ve sold out to special interest groups. It could be the military, alarmed at the direction of the country and wanting to preserve the American way of life.* (It probably wouldn’t be an organization of big businessmen; they’re never the good guys.) Whatever, it should be clear that we’re not talking about something simple, like "eliminating" a specific individual. The protagonists must clearly be determined to replace the current system of government with a new one – either more radical, or more true to the Founders. That’s not for me to say – you decide.
*Before you say anything, I’m not talking about a series like Last Resort, either. A scenario that involves either an accident or an act of war is too reactive. This has to be more calculating. A dystopic, post-apocalyptic future, on the other hand, should not necessarily be ruled out.
And one friendly piece of advice: do not mix in real names or real political issues. This is a sure fire way to disaster, for even if you have half the country on your side already, there’s no sense antagonizing the other half. They’re all potential viewers, right? This isn't about liberals wanting to get rid of colonial racism, nor conservatives battling against radical socialism. If you start to take sides, you’ll be perceived as trying to make a political statement (like Aaron Sorkin), rather than presenting a dramatic presentation that asks a simple question: would the American public, the average American television viewer, feel comfortable cheering on the end of the very system we’ve been taught to revere from long ago? Fifty years ago, those who criticized The Fugitive thought rooting against legal authority was un-American. Would we say the same, today, about a coup against our own government?
And besides, it’s not about politics. It’s about making money. That’s what million-dollar ideas are for, after all.